By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
The new director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library brings a wealth of experience in library services for kids and adults, and she’s not afraid to think big — very big.
Faith Brautigam, the former director of youth services at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Ill., was selected unanimously Monday to become the Kokomo library’s first new director in 30 years.
“Faith, as a candidate, stood out because we were looking for an individual with public library experience, management experience and budget experience,” said board member Mary Baker. “Faith’s enthusiasm is something that, I believe, impressed all of us. Most importantly, her ideas for moving our library into the 21st century were in line with what we, as a board, were looking for in a new director.”
While in Elgin, she worked to bring in kids to see six life-sized replica dinosaur skeletons at the library, a project which brought more than 14,000 kids through the doors on field trips alone.
She was director of Early Literacy and Learning Initiatives and director of Youth Services at Gail Borden, and before that served as head of youth services at the Sandusky Library in Sandusky, Ohio, from 1986 to 1990, and was a children’s librarian at Wayne County Public Library in Goldsboro, N.C., from 1984 to 1986. Monday, Brautigam (pronounced BRAW-ti-gam) said she looks forward to moving to the area and learning from library staff.
“I have a lot to learn, and I’ll need to find out a lot of things, but from what I can see, the former library director [Charles Joray] left the physical facility in great shape,” she said. “I think that will free me to do some other things, have some meetings with community groups and find ways to serve the community in the best possible way.”
But back to the dinosaurs: Brautigam was on the School Visit Committee for the exhibit of six full-sized dinosaur skeletons on display at the library. The exhibit attracted 14,000 students through field trips, and the library planned 65 exhibit-related programs to coincide with the four-month exhibit.
The “GIANTS: African Dinosaurs” project helped the Gail Borden Public Library win the 2006 Library of the Year award from a consortium of more than 650 academic, public, school, and special libraries in Cook, Kane, Lake, and McHenry counties in Illinois.
One of the areas the board wants Brautigam to focus on will be technology, Baker explained.
“We were looking for a director who was looking at technology and how it would impact the library in the future,” Baker said. “One of the things that stood out when she talked with us was the idea of bringing patrons into the library for activities and programs that aren’t necessarily book-specific. In addition, we still have patrons who don’t use technology. They’ll never own a computer or a smartphone. We can’t leave out people in that demographic.”
“For the future, I think that we need to focus on why libraries have always existed and not on what we have done or are doing,” Brautigam said. “We have existed and will continue to exist to enrich the lives of the community. We will have to be creative and innovative in how we accomplish that in the future.”
Since Joray’s retirement April 30, assistant director Peg Harmon has been serving as the interim director.
Monday, the board thanked Harmon for her service during the four-month long director search. She will stay on as assistant director.
Brautigam said she plans to move into the library’s service area. She and the board agreed to a two-year contract, marking the first time a Kokomo library director has had a contract, board President Jim Seidel said.
“In terms of the Kokomo area, from the research I’ve done, the community has a variety of things to offer,” Brautigam said. “The free trolley sounds like a great concept, as well as the foreign exchange student program that the Kokomo-Center School Corporation has going on. I am excited about getting to know the community and the people. It appears there is a lot of potential for community partnering.”
A native of upstate New York, Brautigam received her Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Humanities at Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y.
Scott Smith can be reached at (765) 454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org